Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Watch review

A bold new name with a few new features

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The new Samsung Galaxy Watch is pushing smartwatches to look like real watches and last more than a day. It nails the look and feel even if it hasn't changed much from the Gear S3, and comes in two sizes for broader appeal.


  • Two sizes for large and small wrists
  • Battery promised to last several days
  • Inventive calendar watch face


  • Only the largest size has a big battery
  • LTE model is going to cost you extra
  • Is Bixby good enough vs Google Assistant?

The Samsung Galaxy Watch isn't called the Gear S4, but it acts a lot like a sequel to the Gear Sport, judging from our brief hands-on time with the smartwatch.

It's designed to look and feel like a real watch, yet help you stay fit and connected. It does that while also adding Bixby Voice, new watch faces, and better battery life.

We tried on both the larger and smaller Galaxy Watch sizes at the Note 9 launch event. The big one looked quite big on us, and the smaller watch comes in two colors.

All of this is just enough change for it warrant a new name. Here's what we thought.

To see the Samsung Galaxy Watch in action, watch our hands-on video below:

Samsung Galaxy Watch release date and price

Good news, the Samsung Galaxy Watch, depending on the size you want, is actually cheaper than the Gear S3 at launch. There are also both Bluetooth and LTE connected models of the smartwatch.

The Galaxy Watch price starts at $329 / £279 for the 42mm version, and it's a touch more at $349.99 / £299 for the larger 46mm one. When it first came out, the Gear S3 cost $349 / £349 (around AU$475), and it only came in one size. 

The LTE versions of the watches are set to cost $379.99 for the 42mm and $399.99 for the 46mm. EE will be supporting the LTE watches in the UK, but that won't be on sale until later in the year and we don't currently know the pricing.

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The US release date is August 24 for both watches at Amazon, Best Buy and Samsung's own store. The LTE version will be sold through AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, the Samsung online store, and other unnamed select retailers later this year.

In the UK you'll have to wait a touch longer as the Samsung website claims it'll be shipping from September 6. Those in Australia will have to wait until October to be able to buy the watch, and we don't currently have any pricing details for it there.

Galaxy Watch look and feel

The circular Samsung Galaxy Watch is getting closer to looking like a real watch that we don't want to take off for special occasions. It fits right in to your everyday life.

It's very similar to the Gear S3 watch design, with a large face and durable-feeling metal body. There are buttons on the side, and you can also rotate the watch bezel to cycle through apps and menus.

The Galaxy Watch comes in two sizes: there's the larger 46mm silver watch with a 1.3-inch (33mm) circular Super AMOLED display. It measures out to be 46 x 49 x 13mm and weighs 63g without the strap, and it looks and feels quite big.

The equally stylish Galaxy Watch 42mm comes in either Midnight Black or Rose Gold and it has a slightly smaller 1.2-inch (30mm) display. It measures 41.9 x 45.7 x 12.7mm and weighs 49g. It's a better fit for medium and smaller wrists.

There's some more color flair to the smaller watch, too. It uses 20mm straps, which come in colors of Onyx Black, Lunar Grey, Terracotta Red, Lime Yellow, Cosmo Purple, Pink Beige, Cloud Grey, and Natural Brown.

The larger 46mm watch uses 22mm straps with more limited strap color options: Onyx Black, Deep Ocean Blue, and Basalt Grey. 

Sure, you may get more color options with the smaller watch, but if the big size fits you, we recommend that one for its extra battery capacity. There’s likely to be a big difference between the battery life with a 472mAh cell on the larger edition and 270mAh on the smaller size.

Samsung says that the extra battery life helps the watch 'last for multiple days on a single charge'. That's very non-specific, so you'll have to wait for our full Samsung Galaxy Watch review for the complete battery life breakdown.

New Galaxy Watch features

The Samsung Galaxy Watch is dust- and water-resistant with a diving rating of 5ATM and a rating of IP68. On-board sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, heart rate monitor, and Ambient Light sensor. There's wireless charging on here, too.

Health is a big component of the Galaxy Watch, which expands on Samsung Health with new stress management and breathing features. There are also 21 new indoor exercises and 39 tracked workouts overall.

Samsung says you have the choice of 60,000 watch faces, and we really liked the new circular watch face which hides calendar information in the on-screen dial. That's going to be our new go-to watch face when wearing this.

Bixby, which is Samsung's AI voice assistant, it supposed to replace S Voice on the watch, Samsung said at its Note 9 press conference. The company didn't have a lot of details on how it would work, but it should be able to mirror the commands you issue to your Galaxy smartphone and, soon, the Samsung Galaxy Home speaker. 

Samsung is continuing to push SmartThings and Samsung Pay from the wrist, which are convenient features once you actually set them up (and remember your Samsung ID and password for all of this).

The Galaxy Watch is compatible with Android phones as long as they're running Android 5.0 or later, and it works with the iPhone 5 and later as long as it's been upgraded to iOS 9. We still don't expect to be able to reply to iMessages from the wrist (due to Apple's walled garden).

Interestingly, while both the Bluetooth and LTE watches have the same dual-core 1.15GHz chipset, 4GB of storage, and Tizen OS 4.0 operating system, the LTE version has 1.5GB of RAM, and the Bluetooth model uses 768MB of RAM. That extra RAM may be to keep the cellular connection running.

Early verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Watch is launching at the same time as the Note 9, and it looks and feels like it's pushing  smartwatches to become more stylish and last longer.

Samsung is eschewing Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) with its latest smartwatch, and that may be the reason behind its longer battery life. Other perks include new watch faces, Bixby Voice on the wrist, and water-resistance almost as good as the Gear Sport. There's some neat workout software additions here, too.

It doesn't change enough for you to run out and buy a whole new smartwatch if you own the Gear S3 or Sport, but it does move the the needle – or dial – in the right direction.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.